Twilight of the Tigris: Iraq's mighty river drying up

Twilight of the Tigris: Iraq's mighty river drying up

Sun setting on the Tigris: Iraqi fisherman Naim Haddad plys the Shatt al-Arab near Basra
Sun setting on the Tigris: Iraqi fisherman Naim Haddad plys the Shatt al-Arab near Basra. Photo: Ayman HENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

It was the river that is said to have watered the biblical Garden of Eden and helped give birth to civilisation itself.

But today the Tigris is dying.

Human activity and climate change have choked its once mighty flow through Iraq, where -- with its twin river the Euphrates -- it made Mesopotamia a cradle of civilisation thousands of years ago.

Parched land: a thin horse looks for grass at Ras al-Bisha in southern Iraq
Parched land: a thin horse looks for grass at Ras al-Bisha in southern Iraq. Photo: Ayman HENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

Iraq may be oil-rich but the country is plagued by poverty after decades of war and by droughts and desertification.

PAY ATTENTION: Join Legit.ng Telegram channel! Never miss important updates!

Battered by one natural disaster after another, it is one of the five countries most exposed to climate change, according to the UN.

From April on, temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and intense sandstorms often turn the sky orange, covering the country in a film of dust.

All that is left of the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris in the central Iraq
All that is left of the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris in the central Iraq. Photo: Ayman HENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

Hellish summers see the mercury top a blistering 50 degrees Celsius -- near the limit of human endurance -- with frequent power cuts shutting down air-conditioning for millions.

The Tigris, the lifeline connecting the storied cities of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, has been choked by dams, most of them upstream in Turkey, and falling rainfall.

Receding waters: beached boats on a shrinking irrigation canal near Ras al-Bisha in southern Iraq
Receding waters: beached boats on a shrinking irrigation canal near Ras al-Bisha in southern Iraq. Photo: Ayman HENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

An AFP video journalist travelled along the river's 1,500-kilometre (900-mile) course through Iraq, from the rugged Kurdish north to the Gulf in the south, to document the ecological disaster that is forcing people to change their ancient way of life.

Source: AFP

Online view pixel